Tadpole
dir. Gary Winick
Now playing at the Uptown.

First, an admission: I haven't seen this movie.

I have, however, read the glowing reviews in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal, and I caught the director and star on NPR last week--so I feel qualified to comment on the film's plot and public reception, if not its execution and effect.

The plot: A mature-for-his-age high school sophomore--a 15-year-old nicknamed "Tadpole"--has a crush on his refined stepmother (Sigourney Weaver), but winds up in bed with his stepmother's somewhat-less-refined, early-fortysomething best friend, played by Bebe Neuwirth. After sampling Tadpole's goods, Neuwirth's character pushes Tadpole on her friends.

What's remarkable about this film, according to the conservative writer Andrew Sullivan (andrewsullivan.com), is how the critical reception of Tadpole exposes the hypocrisy of the gay-baiting right. In a pair of notorious essays in the Weekly Standard, Mary Eberstadt condemned "pedophilia chic," citing examples of gay fiction, gay memoirs, and gay films that showed sex with minors in a positive light. One of the books Eberstadt condemned was The Coming Storm by Paul Russell, a novel about a 25-year-old teacher who has an affair with a 15-year-old student. The Washington Post praised the book, a review that Eberstadt characterized as so much "cheerleading for the sexual molestation of teenagers."

As Andrew Sullivan points out, the critical response to Tadpole amounted to a whole hell of a lot of cheerleading for the sexual molestation of a teenager. In the New Yorker, Anthony Lane predicts that the 15-year-old's affair with an older woman is "as good as Oscar's life will ever get."

"Here is 'pedophilia chic' in an almost classic formulation in a movie with big stars in it," writes Sullivan, "reviewed in the New Yorker. And the social conservatives are utterly mute. Do you think they would be quiet if this were a same-sex relationship?"

Welcome to the new double standard: When gay men write or make films that address sex between gay adults and gay teenagers, it's promoting pedophilia. When a straight man makes a movie about a woman seducing a straight teenager, it's as good as it gets.

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